Genre Scenes of the Twelve Months


Genre Scenes of the Twelve Months

Paintings / Muromachi

Muromachi period, 16th century

Color on paper

総寸 縦114.2 横301.0; 本紙 第1扇 41.8 × 61.4, 第2扇 42.2 × 61.0, 第3扇 40.3 × 61.1, 第4扇 42.0 × 61.3, 第5扇 42.1 × 61.9, 第6扇 40.3 × 61.8, 第7扇 39.9 × 61.5, 第8扇 40.1 × 61.7


Inscriptions:「風俗図屏風一隻 吉川家蔵」 ; 「月次風俗図」 ; 「吉川家旧蔵」 ; 「絵画區」(朱文方印)「一一〇九〇」(墨書)

Important Cultural Property

Scenes of festivals, customs, and beautiful landscapes throughout the twelve months of the year were common features of Yamato-e, or classic paintings of distinctively Japanese themes, a genre popularized from the mid-Heian period, from the late 9th century to the 10th century. It became prevalent alongside Japanese waka poetry, and the paintings often featured themed poems for each month. Some works also depicted seasonal landscapes at famous locations. These included utamakura, or places commonly used in poetry to cultivate allusions or moods.

This work follows in these traditions, though it was painted in the 16th century, during the Muromachi period. It depicts the manners and customs of each social stratum, from the nobility and the warrior class down to the general public.
From right to left, the screen to your right depicts a New Year scene under the old lunar calendar, with people playing Japanese-style badminton or a ball game on horseback. The second panel portrays cherry blossom viewing in the third month, while the third and fourth panels feature scenes of rice planting in the fifth month. Panel five also depicts scenes associated with the fifth month in which people are horseracing or changing clothes for the new season. It is unclear which month panel six depicts, but it shows inu-ou-mono, a contest where mounted archers try to hit dogs with arrows, and kemari, a type of football. Panel seven brings us to the eighth month, where a party is hunting under a full moon at the base of Mount Fuji. In panel eight, meanwhile, people are playing in the snow in the twelfth month.

Each panel offers up vivid scenes of people living life to the full throughout the year.

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